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Georgia's County Association award commissioner Rolando Alvarez

Georgia’s County Association (ACCG) recently awarded Barrow County Commissioner Rolando Alvarez with a certificate for successfully completing the core requirements in the Lifelong Learning Academy. Rolando Alvarez was honored during the ACCG County Reconnect Conference at the Savannah Convention Center in Chatham County.

ACCG and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia have collaborated for more than two decades to provide county officials with supplemental training and educational tools in the Lifelong Learning Academy. With abundant courses to choose from, every county official has a tailor-made learning experience that allows them to excel in specific areas of expertise.

“County officials are faced with many challenges and ever-evolving circumstances under which they must govern Georgia’s local communities,” said Dave Wills, ACCG’s executive director.

“The Lifelong Learning Academy was created to help them navigate those challenges. I commend county leaders such as Rolando Alvarez who take full advantage of educational opportunities to further their knowledge on how to better serve their communities.”

The Lifelong Learning Academy was created with input from county commissioners who identified courses based on the issues and decision-making challenges regularly faced by county officials.

The ACCG Lifelong Learning Committee is a comprised of county commissioners and staff from both ACCG and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. To ensure the course requirements and curriculum remain relevant and engaging, the group meets regularly to review and adjust accordingly. Through this collaborative approach, the Lifelong Learning Academy has been successful in equipping county officials with the necessary skills to meet the needs of their constituents. 

“It is an honor to receive the ACCG Core Certification from the University of Georgia.  I look forward to using the things I’ve learned over the last couple of years in this program to continue serving the citizens of Barrow County,” said Alvarez.

Blood drive planned in Winder as Red Cross continues to face shortage
Blood drive planned in Winder as Red Cross continues to face shortage

The American Red Cross will hold a blood donation drive from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Wimberly Center for Community Development, 163 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

The Red Cross, which provides 40% of the country’s blood, is facing historically low blood supply levels, organization leaders said in a news release.

“Busy holiday schedules, breaks from school and winter weather all contribute to a drop in blood and platelet donations this time of year,” leaders said. “Those factors, combined with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, make it vital for donors to make an appointment to give as soon as possible. If more donors don’t come forward to give blood, some patients requiring a transfusion may potentially face delays in care.”

Donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). There is no blood donation waiting period for those who have received a flu shot or a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or booster, so long as they are symptom-free, according to the release.

To encourage donors to help address the historically low blood supply this holiday season, all who come to give Dec. 17 through Jan. 2 will receive an exclusive Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last, according to the release.


Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center “follows the highest standards of safety and infection control,” leaders said, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to “help protect the health of all those in attendance.” 

Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 


Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Pastor Craig Topple and Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church of Statham recently dropped off a cart full of assorted snacks and fruits for the hospital staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow. The gift was the church's “blessings basket,” presented on “Giving Tuesday” in appreciation of the hospital staff's service toward improving the health of the community. Seen in the picture, from left to right, are: Robin Ketcham, executive assistant to NGMC Barrow administration; Edward and Nancy Luke; Debbie and Larry Baker; and Sunita Singh, public relations manager at NGMC Barrow. 

Winder's Russ Wilburn elected on Georgia Farm Bureaus's state board of directors

Russ Wilburn of Winder was recently elected to a two-year term representing the Georgia Farm Bureau’s 4th District on the organization’s state board of directors.

Voting delegates from the 17 counties in Georgia Farm Bureau’s 4th District elected Wilburn during the organization’s 84th annual convention held on Jekyll Island, Dec. 5-7. 

GFB’s 4th District includes Barrow, Clarke, Columbia, Glascock, Greene, Hancock, Lincoln, McDuffie, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Richmond, Taliaferro, Walton, Warren and Wilkes counties. Skeetter McCorkle of McDuffie County also serves as a GFB director for the district.

Wilburn and his wife, Laura, raise beef cattle and hay. He also owns Russ Wilburn Landscapes, Inc., which offers landscaping services in the Winder and Athens area. Wilburn has been an active Farm Bureau member since 2004.

The Wilburns served on the GFB YF&R Committee in 2016-2017 and were the committee vice chairs the second year. Russ has served on the Barrow County Farm Service Agency Committee for the past three years and is a member of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association. The Wilburns have three children: Lawson, Margaret and Henry. They are members of Winder First United Methodist Church.

Founded in 1937, Georgia Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general farm organization with 157 county chapters. GFB serves as the voice of Georgia farmers and rural Georgia by advocating for them on legislative issues and promoting Georgia commodities. Its volunteer members actively participate in activities that promote agriculture awareness.

GFB membership is open to the public and offers a wide variety of benefits including insurance and discounts for health services, travel and family entertainment. Enrollment in any of the member benefits is optional and not a requirement for membership.